31 August 2007

Where Were We?


TBF got most of them, but Heidi finished up with the last location. So both will win a (very) small prize! Pewter Christmas ornaments from Norway!


Answers are below with the photos.

More photos from our Baltic Cruise will follow as I find the time to write the posts...


GLH and I have just returned from an amazing, dream-come-true vacation. It was both exotic and oddly, at times even uncomfortably, American at the same time.

Can you guess where we went and what we did?

Here are some clues. Each picture represents one of the places we went on our journey. And yes, the pictures are in order of destination.

The first person to accurately answer what we did and all of the places we went in chronological order will win a (very) small souvenir purchased during our trip...

Family and close friends who already know where we went and what we did are not eligible to win, so don't bother putting in your answers! I'll just delete them anyway.

Nyhaven in Copenhagen, Denmark

Sunset over the Baltic during the 10-day cruise

Stockholm Stadshus (City Hall) in Sweden

Sibelius Monument in Helsinki, Finland

Troika Singers at Russian Restaurant in Pushkin (near St. Petersburg)

Song Festival Grounds in Tallinn, Estonia

Medieval Port Crane in Gdansk, Poland

Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ship Museum) in Oslo, Norway

17 August 2007

16 August 2007

Die Katzen Haben Meine Hausaufgabe Gegessen

I'm being serious. The cats did eat my homework.

Well, actually, they ate the piece of paper that had my homework assignment on it.

They decline to eat the bugs, but they are perfectly happy eating random pieces of paper that I still need.

Lazy Cats!

Our cats have a very good life.

They spend most of the day sleeping. They get lots of attention and cuddling. They receive three meals a day. We have purchased toys to stimulate their interest and keep them fit and healthy. When we travel our neighbor stops in every day to feed them and play with them so they will not be lonely.

Frankly, it's a dream life.

In return for supporting their lifestyle we ask for one thing and one thing only...

Kill the Bugs!

So when I see our cats idly watch two bugs crawling on the floor, but they decline to move from their comfortable spot to do their assigned duties, it makes me a little irked.

Perhaps we are feeding them too much?

Perhaps they are not "hungry enough?"


15 August 2007

Random Photos from Our Road Trip

Brussels, Belgium

Neuhaus Chocolates, my favorite. But the shop is closed...

Praise to the Powers that Be. This one was open.

With the band...

Saturday morning Flower Market in the Grand Place.


Chartes, France

Approaching Chartres, the small French town with the enormous Cathedral.

Cathedral Facade

Famous Blue Madonna Window with the characteristic "Chartres blue" stained glass.

Light a Penny Candle. (Although with inflation it is now a 2 Euro candle!)

Can we go now?

Versailles, France

Dare I say it? The palace is rather gaudy.

Raurica Augustus (Basel, Switzerland)

Ancient Roman Amphitheater (Red brick is reconstruction)

13 August 2007

Random Observations from a Car Window

This past weekend we took GLH's mother on a whirlwind tour of France and Belgium. A fair amount of what we saw was from the car window.

Here are my observations on the Road Trip Habits of Europeans...

1. The Dutch must really, really love camping. In Switzerland, France and Belgium there were many RV's, camper trailers and backseats stuffed with sleeping bags and tents. Most of the time (perhaps as much as 80% of the obvious campers we saw) the camping gear was in a vehicle with Netherlands license plates. Second most number of campers were Germans followed by a distant UK.

2. The French mostly go the posted speed limit except for occasional packs of aggressive drivers. The packs tend to consist of 4-5 cars going 160 kph or more. They follow each other quite closely and weave in and out of traffic. Perhaps they prefer the validation a pack of speeders provides? By the way, the Germans are perfectly capable of speeding all by themselves without the benefit of group protection.

3. It must be very confusing to take your car through the Chunnel. Along the way from Brussels to Paris we were joined by many UK drivers who were obviously coming from Calais. In most cases, the UK drivers were passing on the right. This practice makes total sense when cars drive on the left side of the road, but is extremely dangerous when cars drive on the right side as they tend to do in the rest of Europe. We saw a couple of near misses when Continental Europeans changed lanes with no clue that a UK driver was passing them on the right side.

4. The French must be quite tired and need repeated naps. It is the only explanation for the presence of rest areas every 10-20 kilometers along all major French motorways. By the way, I highly recommend that you stop at the rest areas that also have gas and food. Otherwise you may end up peeing in a hole in the floor or standing in front of a bush, depending upon the stop. Although many do not seem to mind. We saw a few men who chose the bush even when an actual restroom with a toilet was available at no cost less than 20 meters from where they stood.

5. I am continually astounded by the number of people of all nationalities and in all areas of the world who decide not to wash their hands after a toilet stop. Yeech! By the way, truly washing your hands requires the use of soap. Using only water simply moves the germs around on your hands. I suggest that you rub soap into your hands for the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" then rinse with water as hot as you can stand. At least that is what we were taught in kindergarten and I believe it is still considered good advice.

12 August 2007

Are You a Friend of Harry's?

The sorting hat says that I belong in Gryffindor!

Said Gryffindor, "We'll teach all those with brave deeds to their name."

Students of Gryffindor are typically brave, daring, and chivalrous.
Famous members include Harry, Ron, Hermione, Albus Dumbledore (head of Hogwarts), and Minerva McGonagall (head of Gryffindor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Thanks, Joie de Kitty, for letting me know about this quiz!

09 August 2007

It's Just Wrong

This evening GLH returned from a trip to the grocery store with a tube containing what he believed to be tartar sauce.

When he opened it he realized it was tuna.

Yes, Gentle Readers, you can purchase squeezable tuna in a metal tube (similar to toothpaste) here in Switzerland.

Now that is just wrong.

The squeezable tuna was immediately relegated to the garbage bin.

06 August 2007

What Are They Wearing?

Today was a hot day in Zürich. Which means that people dressed for the weather.

In Europe, dressing for hot weather frequently translates as "I'd rather be naked, but as the law requires clothing I will wear something translucent instead." And even though I am a Midwesterner (i.e. prudish), I have almost gotten accustomed to seeing people wearing clothes that reveal what I would rather be left to the imagination. Or not imagined at all depending upon the person.

However, this morning I saw something that had my jaw dropping to the floor.

While riding the tram past Burkliplatz I saw a couple walking along Lake Zürich. He was dressed in a beige linen suit. She was dressed in a flowing white gown, had flowers in her hair and clutched a bouquet of white flowers. They were accompanied by some friends. Obviously today was their wedding day.

Here is the jaw dropper...

Even though it was obviously her wedding day and even though she was at least 7-8 months pregnant, the blushing bride selected a wedding dress that was so transparent that she may as well have been walking along in her all-together. You could see everything, including the lack of bra (which I found amazing given her advanced state of pregnancy!)

And did anyone else know that they make thong underwear for pregnant women?

05 August 2007

Mountain Roads


GLH's mother is visiting this week.

Today our mission was to show her some mountains. And show her mountains we did. We first drove through Luzern and then journeyed on to Interlaken. After lunch at a Gasthaus perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the valley, we walked a bit through Interlaken. WHich was, as always, completely mobbed with tourists.

On the way home, however, we went a very different way -- up through the Susten Pass. Yowza! What unbelievable views! And today was without a doubt the perfect weather for mountain driving. Clear, crisp air and a view that went for miles. Plus, GLH's mother got to see a glacier for the first time.


Tunnel Blown through the Rock

Switchbacks Climbing the Mountain

02 August 2007

Close to Home

Yesterday during the height of the evening rush hour a bridge collapsed near downtown Minneapolis. It is a miracle that thus far only 7 have been reported dead, although search and recovery efforts continue.

This hit close to home for me. Not only have I been on that bridge countless times, but two of my siblings (and their spouses and children) live very close to there.

It was a few tense minutes until my sister managed to locate her husband and two children. Fortunately they happened to drive a different way yesterday evening than they usually would. Thank God all my family is o.k.

And I realized that I don't say it enough. I love you all very much.

01 August 2007

Feuer Tag! ; Or, Is Switzerland Being Invaded?

It is Swiss Day!

Earlier this week it was explained to me that the nickname for today is Feuer Tag (Fire Day).

There are both public and private fireworks in every direction as far as the eye can see. We are astounded by the size of the fireworks that anyone with an inclination, and a fair amount of money, can buy and set off in their backyard. Just down the street from us is a group setting off fireworks similar in size to what a medium-sized town in the US would have for July 4th.

This can only be termed: Putting on the Swiss.

One final note: in addition to explosions from all directions, we are also hearing sirens. Police cruisers and ambulances are heading in every direction as well. I suspect there will be a round-up of various injuries reported in tomorrow's newspaper.